MPs vehicle abuse case: Amended application to SC to be taken up on Aug. 31

Toyota Land Cruiser most preferred vehicle...


By Shamindra Ferdinando

A high profile case involving members of all political parties represented in parliament, except the JVP, abusing duty free vehicle permits will be taken up in the Supreme Court on Aug. 31. The recipients included UNP and its coalition partners, SLMC, ACMC et al, SLFP, Group of 16, Joint Opposition and the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA)

Attorney-at-law and public interest litigation activist Nagananda Kodituwakku on Monday (Aug 27) filed an amended application in respect of the MPs’ vehicle abuse case seeking a ruling of contempt of court in accordance with Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

 Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), T.B. Weerasuriya, Chairman to the Commission, Lal Ranjith Silva, member of the Commission, Chandranath Neville Guruge, member of the Commission, Sarath Jayamanne, PC, Director General of the Commission, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasingle, Deputy Solicitor General and Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya have been cited as the respondents.

 In addition to the ruling of contempt of court for the deliberate failure on the part of the CIABOC to carrying out a proper investigation into the MPs’ vehicle abuse case, Koddituwakku prayed for the reinstatement of case against MPs and a directive to the CIABOC to conduct a thorough inquiry.

 An amendment has been submitted in response to the Court directive. The Supreme Court also called for the filing of Attorney General’s submissions made on behalf of the CIABOC some time ago. The AG assured the Supreme Court that the CIABOC would conduct investigation into the original complaint received by the authority.

 In the Amended application petitioner Kodituwakku said that the transfer of vehicles imported under special tax free scheme that had been made available to MPs was contrary to Excise (Special Provision) (Amendment) 8 of 1994 that dealt with the exemption of certain articles from payment of excise duty.

 According to the amended petition, Kodituwakku has complained to the CIABOC on Dec 11, 2014 in the run-up to the last presidential election calling for what he called credible and independent investigation. The CIABOC has, by letter dated March 4, 2015, in the run-up to the last parliamentary polls in 2015 Aug, informed the petitioner that as the issuance of duty free permits was in line with government policy, any loss caused to the state as a result of such did not come within the scope of Section 70 of the Bribery Act.

 In spite of the CIABOC refusal to initiate an inquiry, the petitioner has again complained to the same authority on Aug 26, 2016.

 According to the amended petition, (a) the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, in its first fiscal policy statement on Nov 20, 2015 assured parliament that the duty-free permit scheme would be abolished (b) Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Secretary in Feb 2016 issued permits to those elected at the Aug 2015 parliamentary polls though he lacked legal authority to do and  (c) subsequently a gazette notification was issued in accordance with Section 3C of the Excise (Special Provisions) Act No 13 of 1989 (as amended by 08 of 1994) empowered the Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Secretary to grant total tax exemptions to MPs.

 The amended petition also brought to the notice of the Supreme Court the illegality of third parties receiving tax exemptions granted to elected and appointed members under Section 3C of the Excise (Special Provisions) Act No 13 of 1989 (as amended by Act No 08 of 1994).

 The petitioner also filed in court the latest entire list of members of parliament, including ministers who obtained the duty free facility, under the Right to Information (RTI) law. The list contained the names of those who had acquired the MPs’ vehicles. According to the list available with The Island, Japanese built Toyota Land Cruiser with tax exemption of over Rs 30 mn is the most preferred among MPs. In addition to that Mercedez Benz S 350, Mercedez Benz jeep and Mercedez Benz S 350 diesel.

 The petitioner has calculated the loss of state revenue due to fraudulent transactions involving the duty free permits made available to the members of the current parliament amounted to approximately Rs 7 bn.

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